When you hear the word “doctor” these days, you probably think of your obstetrician (OB). That’s only natural. Pregnancy and childbirth are on your mind, and your OB is the go-to expert. But other doctors also play a crucial role in your health at this time.
Below are some other health care professionals you might need to see during pregnancy.
Communicating with All Your Doctors
Be sure to tell all your doctors that you’re pregnant. It may affect how often you go for appointments and which tests or treatments they recommend. Let each doctor know about other health care providers you’re seeing and any medications or supplements you’re taking.
Dental and Vision Care
Because you see your OB so often, you may be tempted to slack off on other types of health care visits. Yet regular dental and vision checkups, for example, are more important than ever. That's because pregnancy can affect your gums and eyes in ways you might not expect. Be sure to contact your dentist or eye doctor if any new problems arise between checkups.
Dentist. Changing hormone levels during pregnancy may cause gingivitis -- red, puffy, tender gums that bleed when you brush. Some women also develop red lumps along the gum line and between teeth. Studies show that pregnant women with untreated gum disease are more likely to have preterm, low-birth-weight babies. Good dental care can help prevent this. Your dentist may suggest more frequent cleanings during your 2nd or early 3rd trimester.
Optometrist or ophthalmologist. Hormonal changes during pregnancy may also cause dry eye. Whether your eye doctor is an optometrist or ophthalmologist, discuss ways to manage this. Symptoms of dry eye include:
- Irritated, scratchy, or burning eyes
- Lots of eye watering
- Blurry vision
- Discomfort when wearing contacts
Doctors for Other Health Conditions
If you had a chronic health condition before getting pregnant, continue doing your best to manage it well.
Ask your doctor if you need to make any changes in your treatment plan during pregnancy and breastfeeding. For example, your doctor may suggest:
- Changing your medication or diet
- Postponing non-urgent X rays or surgery
If a new problem arises while you’re pregnant, you might be referred to a specialist.
Diabetologist or endocrinologist. Did you already have type 1 or type 2 diabetes? Or have you developed gestational diabetes since getting pregnant? If so, a specialist in diabetes care, either a diabetologist or an endocrinologist, may help you keep your blood glucose levels as close to normal as possible.
This can reduce your risk of developing long-term complications, such as:
It also helps lower your babies' risk of:
- Being born early
- Weighing too much or too little
- Having birth defects or other health problems at birth
Cardiologist. Did you already have high blood pressure (hypertension)? Or have you developed gestational hypertension since getting pregnant? If so, you’ll work with your doctor to keep your blood pressure under control. In some cases, your doctor may refer you to a heart specialist (cardiologist).
Managing hypertension during pregnancy reduces your risk of developing long-term complications, such as heart failure or stroke. It also helps ensure that your twins get enough oxygen and nutrients for healthy growth in the womb.
Clinical psychologist or psychiatrist. Depression isn’t just an issue after childbirth. It can occur during pregnancy as well. If you have depression, you should seek treatment from a mental health professional such as a:
- Clinical psychologist
- Other psychotherapist
Getting treatment for depression can help you regain the energy and motivation to take good care of yourself. Plus, it reduces your babies' risk for preterm birth and low birth weight.
Experts in Special Pregnancy Issues
Your regular OB oversees your pregnancy, labor, and delivery. But if a special situation arises, your OB may sometimes work together closely with a specialist who has advanced training in managing complex pregnancies.
A maternal-fetal medicine (MFM) specialist is an OB who has completed additional training. Because a twin pregnancy has certain risks, your doctor may refer you to an MFM specialist to help ensure that you have a healthy pregnancy.
You also may see an MFM specialist if you have a medical condition such as:
Or you may see an MFM specialist if you have other pregnancy risks or issues such as:
- An abnormal AFP (alpha fetoprotein) test
- A repeated history of preterm labor
- Premature rupture of the membranes
- Abnormal ultrasound of your babies
A neonatologist is a pediatrician with additional training in newborn intensive care. If your babies have a health problem that’s identified before birth, your OB may consult with a neonatologist about your babies’ care during your pregnancy.